Oracle hasn't killed Java -- but there's still time

Java core has stagnated, Java EE is dead, and Spring is over, but the JVM marches on. C'mon Oracle, where are the big ideas?

Oracle's last two crap quarterly earnings can most definitely be described as the chickens coming home to roost. The core of the problem is that Oracle lacks anyone who can have a big idea, and a sales machine won't produce the results that investors are accustomed to unless they have something to sell.

The Sun acquisition was a mixed bag: Oracle leapt from the low-cost, high-margin business of software sales into the high-cost, low-margin business of hardware sales just as the cloud era kicked off in earnest. That had to be fun for investors. What was even more fun was what investors were unable to see: that Oracle failed to capitalize on the most important part of Sun.

[ Also on InfoWorld: The mixed fate of Sun's tech under Oracle | Keep up with the latest developer news with InfoWorld's Developer World newsletter. ]

Java was the big opportunity. Java was Sun's success story. If Sun had spun off its hardware business to Fujitsu, built a sales team that worked, and hired a marketing team that could count or do math (Java version 1.x, 1.2 = 2, 1.3 = 2, 1.4 = 2, 5, 6, 7...), then my buddy Simon Phipps might have retired to a private island and Sun would still be here today.

By the time Oracle bought Sun, its troubles had leaked into Java 7, which took approximately 100 years (give or take) to be released -- and with far fewer features. Oracle started making promises about releases and tried to create a release schedule (good idea), However, it failed to fix Sun's semi-abortive attempts to open-source Java, which might have made it more responsive to the industry, or to create any new Java products that anyone wanted to buy.

In fact, Oracle trimmed Sun's portfolio of immature products that no one was purchasing. It was probably a good move, but some of Oracle's offerings in those areas are rickety at best. Then Oracle continued Sun's late attempt to tick off its allies and sued Google with a position ripe with collateral damage for our entire industry. Needless to say it was sort of predictable.

Java's major new features?
With Java 7 and Java 8, we got developer porn, but no new ideas or big ideas. So Typesafe stuck things into Scala, developers talked up those features, then they went into Java. This allowed the developers stuck in big companies who dreamed of writing Scala to use their favorite candy with a slightly wonkier syntax in Java.

This is great for "commoditization" and "standardization," but it offers no new or big ideas. Big ideas are what create new markets. Java was a big idea: "Write once, run anywhere" in a fully garbage-collected VM with a type-safe language that took most of the suck out of writing C++. That was a big enough reason to get companies to rewrite code in Java. Project Lambda wasn't a big enough idea.

Despite all that, Java SE hasn't been an unmitigated disaster. Oracle would have had to do a lot to screw that up. Meanwhile Microsoft, the most obvious competitor, screwed itself completely. Nevertheless I expect Microsoft to turn it around in the cloud era so long as it realizes Azure, Office 365, and BizTalk are the platform and Windows is essentially a dead man walking.

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